We are rapidly reaching a point where instead of calling out acts of racism, it would be simpler for the PC police to inform the rest of us which actions are not racist. From the UCLA Daily Bruin comes word of a sit-in (shades of the ‘70s!) over what some students characterize as a “toxic” racial climate in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
A professor named Val Rust (who is described in the article as having emeritus status but appears to be actively teaching) wrote in a letter to colleagues that “students in the demonstration described grammar and spelling corrections he made on their dissertation proposals as a form of ‘micro-aggression.’” [Emphasis added] Rust further wrote:
I have attempted to be rather thorough on the papers and am particularly concerned that they do a good job with their bibliographies and citations, and these students apparently don’t feel that is appropriate.
Correcting spelling errors and pointing out faulty grammar are racist? Sure, why not. Peanut butter is racist after all.
In any case, the administration has the students’ backs. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, dean of the school sent a letter of his own, admonishing all members of the graduate school community to be respectful:
I expect of the entire GSE&IS; family – including faculty, students, and staff – to embody an ethos and practice based on respect, rigor and reflexivity.
Acts of intolerance, discrimination, bullying, and overt and covert bias stand in complete opposition to the spirit that animates the [graduate school].
Not all of the school’s students participated in the protest. One who didn’t was Stephanie Kim, who said she thought the demonstrators had a legitimate grievance but went about addressing it the wrong way.
The method of protesting is not the only aspect of this story that harks back several generations. The whole debate over broadening the rules of grammar to include non-standard dialects of English, including so-called African American Vernacular English, is at least forty years old. What is new on this go-round is the argument that rules on spelling should be relaxed as well.